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The Darkness: What you missed

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Posted by: Joe Donato

So you just finished the demo of The Darkness II. Pretty cool, right? But did you play the 2007 original? Do you know who you're playing as, or why you're eviscerating everyone around you with inky black tentacles? Do you know why it's such a surprise that The Darkness II is looking promising, or the pedigree it has to live up to? No? Maybe? Either way, GameZone is here to help.

What was The Darkness?

The Darkness

The Darkness was a first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, based on the Top Cow comic series of the same name. Although the comic property surely brought in an audience of fans, many were simply following developer Starbreeze Studios. The Darkness was their next game after The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, quite possibly the greatest game ever based on a licensed property. That was a tough act to follow, and The Darkness didn't quite pull it off—but there were enough cool ideas in the game to make it worthwhile.

What was the game like?

The Darkness was not the best first-person shooter. In fact, the game was a total failure when it came to basic shooter mechanics. Aiming with the thumbstick was unnecessarily difficult, and the endless cascade of options to fine tune the controls seemed more lazy than helpful. Starbreeze also created an innovative physics/animation system for aiming around corners, but it often led to cheap deaths while your arms got tangled on the nearest obstructions.

None of that mattered, though, because you had giant killer tentacles to work with. The only thing standing between you and non-stop car-tossing, tentacle-whipping, black-hole-tossing madness was the Darkness's only weakness: light. Light sources were often a bigger obstacle than the enemies, so you spent a lot of time shooting out lights and skulking around in the dark.

The Darkness

When you weren't killing people, you'd explore via the New York City subway system. Much like the prisoners in Escape from Butcher Bay, the denizens of the subway offered up several sidequests. One particularly memorable one had you jumping out onto the subway tracks picking up change for an old lady.

The moment-to-moment gameplay wasn't the biggest highlight, but Starbreeze made up for it with the storytelling.

What's the story? SPOILERS AHEAD...

You are Jackie Estacado, a pasty-white, black metal-looking dude who spends his days working for the mob, and his nights with his girlfriend Jenny. This goes sour when the don of the mob tries to kill him on his 21st birthday. Instead of dying, the Darkness awakens within Jackie. Imagine the devil on your shoulder combined with super powers and deadly tentacles, and it's no surprise that the Darkness leads Jackie on a quest for revenge.

But first, birthday cake! In one of the more poignant scenes in the game, Jackie comes home to see Jenny. They cuddle up on the couch together, but Jackie has killing to do, and it's left up to the player when he'll make his exit. In a game brimming with dark, brutal violence, Jenny is an incredibly sweet vacation. It's clear why Jackie is with her. On top of that, the real film To Kill a Mockingbird plays on the TV throughout the entire scene, and it never stops. You can actually opt to watch the entire movie if you're feeling ambitious.

Darkness Jenny To kill a mockingbird

From there, the revenge plot continues. The don takes Jackie's attitude personally, so this only enrages him to counterattack. He kidnaps Jenny and takes her to the orphanage where both Jackie and Jenny grew up. Poetry in motion, the scene unfolds as the Darkness restrains Jackie, forcing him to watch his only love's execution. “She was a burden, this is freedom,” the Darkness whispers to him. But Jackie has other plans, and with nothing left to lose, he puts a bullet down his throat.

Darkness Jenny execution

Jackie wakes up in the Otherworld, the hellish home of the Darkness. There, he fights his way through a zombified version of World War I, eventually meeting his great-great grandfather, Anthony Estacado. He explains that the Darkness has been passed through the family, and that Jackie must face the Darkness in the underworld to defeat it.

To cut to the chase, though, let's just say Jackie's efforts don't quite pan out. Rather than defeating the Darkness, he allows it to become closer than ever, emerging back in the real world with more power, but an even deeper connection to the monster inside of him.

This added power (and a conveniently-timed solar eclipse), allows Jackie to make an assault on the don's mansion and finally get his revenge. A super-powered bloodbath ensues, and with the don dead, the Darkness consumes Jackie while he has a vision of Jenny one last time.

Where does The Darkness II pick up?

Two years later, apparently. Not only is Jackie still alive, but he has repressed the Darkness and taken the mob throne as the new don. Still haunted by visions of Jenny, he'll have to keep it together as a man named Victor Valente tries to steal the Darkness from him.

Darkness II

 

Is The Darkness II going to be good?

We won't be able to tell you for sure until our review, but the demo for the game is extremely promising. The combat seems to be the star of the show, with refined controls that allow the player to easily fight with two tentacles and two guns simultaneously.

Darkness II combat

It's also worth noting that The Darkness II isn't a Starbreeze game (they're busy working on Syndicate), instead, this sequel was made by Digital Extremes, whose previous game was Dark Sector. They're not the most promising source, to be frank, but the proof is in the pudding, and the demo shows a ton of potential.

It can go either way, really. The combat is undoubtedly better, but the story seems like it may lack the heart and soul of the original game. At the very least, don't go in expecting to cuddle up with a girlfriend and some public domain television.

Tags: The Darkness II, Xbox 360, PS3

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